Review: The Ugly Face of Disability Hate Crime

23 July 2015

Our Northern Ireland disability hate crime awareness team give their views on The Ugly Face of Hate Crime, broadcast on BBC Three earlier this evening.

We were pleased to see this documentary featuring as part of BBC Three's ‘Defying the Label’ season. It not only gave a platform for victims of disability hate crime but also challenged all of us to consider our own prejudices.

Each one of us expects to have equal rights and to be treated equally within the law. But, while we're all familiar with racism and sexism, disabilism is still a relatively unknown term. Many members of the general public asked during the documentary were unfamiliar with it.

Reporting inconsistencies

As Adam Pearson explained, disability hate crime is often deemed a ‘basic’ offence whilst hate crime related to faith or race is deemed as an ‘aggravated’ offence which can carry a more substantial sentence.

While disabled people are reporting hate crimes against them, they are not always recorded as hate crime.

A further problem arises when prosecutors don't state the hate crime motivation when a case comes to court. And harsher sentences aren't being applied in relation to the available hate crime legislation.

The interview with Michael Fuller, former chief inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service, failed to challenge the reasons why this is the case and how the recommendations in his report will address this issue.

The programme's focus was on England and Wales, and it's a pity other regions of the UK weren't covered. Our pioneering work in Northern Ireland has been leading the way in disability hate crime advocacy.

Disability hate crime in Northern Ireland

The police service in Northern Ireland — together with the Department of Justice and Leonard Cheshire Disability — have developed support mechanisms for victims of disability hate crime.

We've also proactively lobbied successfully to ensure that disability hate crime is acknowledged, recognised, and given specific targets for the first time within the current and future policing plans.

Our Be Safe Stay Safe project helps disabled people in Northern Ireland feel safer in their homes and in their communities. We've delivered disability hate awareness to over 11,000 disabled people and their carers across Northern Ireland.

Victims are being encouraged to report disability hate crime. But society must be equally encouraged to notice and report. If victims and witnesses of disability hate crime don’t report or notice the issue, victims will continue to suffer in silence.

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